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Cut the Stress, Simplify Your Life

If stress is wearing you down, take some advice from those who have left their stress behind -- simplify your life.

Too Much 'Stuff' Takes Its Toll continued...

The mental health community's awareness of such dependencies as "consumption addictions" led UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute to recently sponsor a conference on "Mental Health and Simple Living: Countering the Compulsion to Consume." The purpose of the conference, says Gorney, was to "help the person shake off the addiction to too much, and with it the distress of excess."

Just acknowledging that you need to simplify your life, however, doesn't solve the problem, although it is a beginning. You may be so crunched for time and energy that you can't even stop to think of ways to simplify your life. Let the experts give you a few suggestions.

It's Time to Disconnect

"Many people feel stressed and overwhelmed because they are 'overconnected,'" says Debra A. Dinnoncenzo, president of ALLearnatives, which specializes in alternative work arrangements. "As a result of the ... never-ending ways that people can access us any time of the day or night, we feel perpetually connected to our work," says Dinnoncenzo, also the author of Dot Calm: The Search for Sanity in a Wired World.

Think about all the technology resources that we now use that weren't commonplace even a few years ago, says Dinnoncenzo. Simplifying your life doesn't mean you have to ditch the cell phone, pager, e-mail, instant messaging, voice mail, call forwarding, and on and on. But it does mean establishing clear boundaries:

  • Turn off your cell phone when you shouldn't be (or don't want to be) interrupted.
  • Don't take a cell phone to an appointment or when you are focusing on someone else.
  • Don't give out your cell phone number. Use it only for outgoing calls.
  • Screen calls by using caller ID.
  • Use the "delete" option -- early and often.
  • Arrange for calls from the office only in cases of emergency.
  • Maintain your commitment to work-free vacations.
  • Let voice mail or the answering machine take your calls.
  • On your voice mail greeting, be clear about when you will and will not be available.

Along with all this technology -- which includes the TV too, by the way -- comes information overload, says Daphne Stevens, PhD, a psychotherapist, life coach and author of the forthcoming book, Watercolor Bedroom: Creating a Soulful Midlife. "Limit the amount of information you expose yourself to," she says. "Being flooded with stimuli is a tremendous source of stress."

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